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(Modesto) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton today announced that no criminal charges will be filed against Officer David Hawn as a result of their joint investigation to determine whether criminal violations occurred in the shooting death of Alberto Sepulveda.
On September 13, 2000, 11-year-old Alberto Sepulveda was shot and killed by a single gunshot fired from the shotgun of Officer David Hawn, a Modesto Police Department SWAT team member. The SWAT team was participating in serving federal search and arrest warrants on a major methamphetamine manufacturing ring. After the shooting, the Modesto Police Department opened an investigation into the procedure used by the SWAT team and the circumstances surrounding Alberto Sepulveda's death. At the request of local law enforcement agencies, Attorney General Lockyer assigned special agents from his California Bureau of Investigation to conduct an independent review of the Modesto Police Department's investigation. The Attorney General's Criminal Division lawyers also worked jointly with District Attorney Brazelton to review police reports and make a determination as to whether any criminal charges would be appropriate against Officer David Hawn.
Lockyer's California Bureau of Investigation concluded that the Modesto Police Department's investigation into the SWAT team shooting was comprehensive. Upon concluding its investigation, the Modesto Police Department forwarded its findings to District Attorney Brazelton and Attorney General Lockyer to determine whether Officer Hawn's actions merited criminal charges. After close review of all the evidence, including all police reports, transcripts of interviews, physical evidence and autopsy and lab reports, both prosecutors determined that no criminal charges should be filed.
Lockyer and Brazelton released their conclusion today in a detailed 15-page report in Modesto. In reaching their conclusion, the prosecutors noted that "(t)he evidence, without exception, does not support any suggestion that Officer Hawn acted with any unlawful intent; and the evidence strongly supports the inference that the gun discharged by accident and not by any volitional act. As such, Officer Hawn's acts cannot constitute any chargeable crime."
"The death of Alberto Sepulveda is a horrible tragedy that can never be erased," Lockyer said. "In the vast majority of cases, SWAT teams carry out their missions flawlessly and save lives in the process. And, while we can not find any criminal wrongdoing in this shooting, I believe we must doing everything possible, starting today, to avoid future tragedies."
"The impact of Alberto Sepulveda's death on his family, the community of Modesto and law enforcement agencies statewide has been deep and devastating," Lockyer stated. "Over the last several years, there have been several tragic episodes resulting from the deployment of SWAT teams. These incidents included the unintended loss of life for members of the public, injury or death for law enforcement personnel, and/or significant civil liability for local governments."
In order to improve officer and public safety, Lockyer announced his intent to immediately convene a Blue Ribbon Commission on SWAT Team Practices to review guidelines and develop statewide recommendations for local law enforcement agencies on the use of SWAT teams. The commission will include representatives from police and sheriffs departments, district attorney offices, judges and other state and local government officials. (See partial list of members.)
"The circumstances surrounding the death of Alberto Sepulveda compel us to ask hard questions about the procedures and policies governing when, where, under what circumstances, with what training and with what information our SWAT teams are deployed in California communities," Lockyer said. "Unfortunately, too many times the deployment of a SWAT team has resulted in the unintentional death or injury to a peace officer or member of the public. I will ask my Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend guidelines for local law enforcement agencies to improve safety for SWAT teams and our communities safety in California." <HR><B>ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL LOCKYER'S BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON SWAT TEAM PRACTICES</B><TABLE WIDTH="400" BORDER="0" CELLSPACING="0" CELLPADDING="3" ALIGN="CENTER" VALIGN="TOP"><TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Sheriff Ed Bonner</TD> <TD>County of Placer</TD></TR><TR><TD>Ed Chavez, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Stockton</TD></TR><TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Jim Gardner, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of San Luis Obispo</TD></TR><TR><TD>Bill Lentini, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Brea</TD></TR><TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Undersheriff Jack Drown </TD><TD>County of San Diego</TD></TR>
<TR><TD>Pat McKinley, Chief of Police</TD> <TD>City of Fullerton</TD></TR><TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Bernard Melekian, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Pasadena</TD>
</TR><TR><TD>Bernard Parks, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Los Angeles</TD></TR>
<TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Art Venegas, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Sacramento</TD> </TR><TR><TD>Sheriff Les Wiedman</TD> <TD>County of Stanislaus</TD></TR><TR BGCOLOR="#FFFFCC"><TD>Richard Word, Chief of Police</TD><TD>City of Oakland</TD></TR></table>